I had a long conversation last night with a good friend about various theological topics. Some of them will find their way on here, in time. The first of them is the doctrine of assurance. How can we be confident that we are saved? Is such confidence possible?
For Methodists, ‘assurance’ historically refers to a feeling of peace and joy that our sins are forgiven. An example might be John Wesley’s famous line, ‘I felt my heart strangely warmed.’ He goes on to say:
I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation. And an
assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
On this understanding, assurance is the feeling that accompanies faith in God’s promises.
The difficulty is of course that feelings can mislead us. It is entirely possible for someone to feel ‘assured’ of their salvation, without having the accompanying faith.
It is therefore perhaps more helpful to talk about assurance in terms of faith. God has promised that those who believe in him will have eternal life, that if we believe in the salvation won for us by Jesus on the cross, we will be saved:
It is not possible for someone to be genuinely broken by sin, genuinely to believe that Christ is the only way to salvation and genuinely to have asked God for salvation, and yet still to be unsaved.
This is the most we can say: God has promised certain things in Scripture. Therefore if God is true to his Word, then what God has promised will happen. At the end of the day we can never be 100% certain that God exists, or we would not have faith, we would simply know.
However we can be almost 100% certain that he does, and therefore almost 100% certain that we will be saved if we trust in his promises.